Super Furry Animals 1999 David Bennun
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Super Furry Animals
[The Guardian, 1999]


LIKE all the best mavericks, Super Furry Animals probably believe that what they do is perfectly normal. Weirdness is one of the most tedious affectations in pop music, the most affected business this side of the acting profession, but SFA are no poseurs. They're just plain odd. They may well be the first band to cross punk rock with the English pastoral prog pop of the early Seventies; an obvious step to take for a Welsh group with their roots in techno. It must have seemed that way to them, anyway, even if it looks as viable a proposition as inter-breeding bacteria with Domestos.
 Their first album went by the name of Fuzzy Logic, and even if they'd called it Marvellous Tunes Performed In Bizarre And Intriguing Ways With Alternating Bits Of Noise And Tender Lyricism, they wouldn't have had so apt a title. Radiator is, if anything, even stranger - maybe, listening back to the previous record, they decided it sounded way too obvious and easily decipherable. But then SFA would never do anything so deliberate.
 Like its predecessor, Radiator appears to have happened by accident, much as if the anecdotal monkeys with typewriters had come up with The Naked Lunch (pretty plausible, when you come to think of it.) Except SFA would probably have used rodents and Moogs. Fuzzy Logic contained a tribute to a magic hamster, a manifestation of a late, beloved pet who came to singer Gruff in a dream and revealed himself as a source of electricity. Radiator, in turn, contains a drive-by shouting of a song called Chupacabras, named after the world's largest rodent. You've got it. This time round, they're thinking bigger.
 The songs still fall into two basic categories: lightning flashes and sprained slowies. The former - Play It Cool, The International Language Of Screaming - sound like fits that might intermittently ambush the brain of someone who necked too much of the brown acid at Woodstock and woke up at the Roxy in 1977. The latter are things of exquisite prettiness, unintentionally perverted. If, for example, you genuinely and instinctively feel that Liv Tyler would be perfect if only she had cloven hooves, seventeen fingers and skin like verdigris, then you will know that Demons and Mountain People were written for you. The gorgeous Torra Fy Ngwallt Yn Hr may be incomprehensible to all who speak no Welsh, but I'll bet that those who do will be listening to it with a mixture of amazement and dismay and thinking, “Jesus, what a bunch of looney tunes.” Only with more consonants, obviously.
 Then, somewhere in-between, lie occasional stompalongs like Placid Casual and Hermann Loves Pauline, with percussion from The Glitter Band, harmonies by The Beach Boys and screeching analogue synths retrieved from some cupboard long ago padlocked and bolted under Health & Safety regulations. The only disappointment is the absence of The Man Don't Give A Fuck, one of the greatest, weirdest and most bloody-minded singles of this or any era. If you ever see it, buy it.
 Even without it, though, Radiator remains a great, weird and bloody-minded record in its own right. Listen to Download slice up its own flawless surface with a lyric like a cold scalpel, or She's Got Spies as it ricochets between sinister calm and outright hysteria, and you'll hear an album too unnatural and alarmed to be as cute as Fuzzy Logic. Nothing else resembles its bizarre buzzsaw psychedelia and oddball, literate precision. Super Furry Animals will never influence other bands, sell millions of records or headline festivals. But then that's what I said about Pulp four years ago, so what the hell do I know?

All material on this site is copyrighted to David Bennun and may not be reprinted or reused without permission. The man don't give a fuck.

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